I don’t know Robert Lenahan, whose father, Bill, died from injuries suffered in a collision on a lonely road in County Kerry.
But he is a quiet Irish American hero, whose behavior after the crash speaks volumes for the cause of human mercy.
As The Irish Times described it, the Lenahan family from Colorado, three generations of them, were driving towards the town of Fenit near Tralee on their way to a restaurant on August 30, 2013.
Robert and his 67-year old dad, both keen photographers, were discussing the magnificent Irish sunset as they drove, other members of the family in the back in their rented Nissan. It was their first day in Ireland.
Robert was driving, his father in the passenger seat.They approached a minor intersection when suddenly a car driven by a 23-year old veterinary assistant, Aine Stack, emerged from the side road slamming straight into the Lenehans car.
It was a bad accident. The Vauxhall driven by Aine Stack had failed to stop emerging from the lesser road and hit the Nissan full tilt on the side driving it into a stone wall.
Bill Lenahan was badly injured but fought bravely for life before succumbing on September 10. The jury took less than an hour to deliver a verdict of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm.
In such cases, the victim impact statement is critical in how the judge views the sentencing in the case.Usually, the victim’s side is seeking the maximum penalty for the guilty party.
It started out that way. Robert explained how hard it was to lose a loving father, grandfather, and husband.
“My family has done well trying to continue with their lives, but this has been difficult,” he said He explained his wife and his mother had suffered injuries that still impacted them.
Then however, he shocked all presentwitht his next comment. “However, as a family, we believe Ms. Stack’s intentions that day were not to kill my dad,” he said.
Her life should not be ruined and she should not serve time in prison he said.
“We believe, as a family, in forgiveness, my dad would as well,” he said.
He then approached the clearly distraught Aine Stack and hugged, comforted and spoke to her.
It was an extraordinary act of forgiveness and mercy for a young woman who had made a dreadful mistake
I’m sure there was not a dry eye in the court.
It also heavily impacted the judge who gave Stack a suspended sentence and stated the victim impact statement of Robert Lenahan showed “remarkable humanity and forgiveness and charity,” Judge O’Donnell said.
Judge O’Donnell said the usual sentence was jail for 18 months, and he suspended this. There was a mandatory disqualification from driving for four years. Hopefully, the young woman will take this extraordinary act of mercy and go on to live a fruitful life.
So thank you, Mr. Lenahan, in a world cascading with hate you show the way of mercy and compassion despite dire personal pain. May your generosity of spirit this St. Patrick's period become known far and wide.
Niall O'Dowd's new book "Lincoln and the Irish: The Untold Story of How the Irish Helped Abraham Lincoln Save the Union" is available on Amazon.